A passion for possession is what all wine drinkers have. This is the theme of the Third Monthly Challenge among some of the wine blogs. All wine lovers wish to possess wines with the thought of amassing a wine cellar of sorts. The idea that one can go to the cellar at a moments notice and grab a bottle or two to enjoy with friends, is what I believe we all desire. We have all seen photos and movies of elegant wine cellars, some with dusty bottles from being stored for decades. Most of the new homes being built are being built with wine cellars as part of the inducement to sell the new homes. We wish to possess wines, but contrary to this idea, the wines end up possessing us.
I know that I am guilty of this concept, and I do believe that most that have started to collect wines, even in a small way, as most of us started off, have some wines that are almost sacred to us. There is a great bottle of wine that we bought on a whim, even though we really could not afford to do so, but it was there, and we may never have a chance again to find it. That wonderful bottle of wine that was a gift from someone, and we just never seem to find the right occasion to open it up. After all some of the great wines are made for long term storage, or at least they used to be, but that is another story for another essay.
I have to admit that I think I have a fine collection of wines, not a cellar of all stellar wines, but enough sparklers to be proud of. I remember back in the late Sixties, I started to buy, drink, enjoy and collect wines when I was a high school student. Suffice it to say, that I had no first growth Medoc wines back then, and my first cellar was a shelf in the basement, where I wrapped each bottle with tissue paper and wrote the pertinent information on the wrapper. I thought I was really cool, but it was a passion. I tried to collect with the concept that if I opened one bottle, then I had to replace it with two bottles. The wines were starting to possess me, in a manner that Poe or King could have written at least a novella about.
All this is background to a family dinner party at our house. My Brother-in-Law that I have spoken of before was in town for the holidays with his family. Like all good company he had brought some wines to enjoy with family and friends on his trip. Now his cellar is a work of art, custom built and stocked through his good fortunes through the likes of some of the great auction companies and fine wine shops that he frequents. He is a very generous man, and has given me many a fine bottle of wine over the years, and has opened even more fine bottles in my company. He has introduced me to many wines that I have only read about, and some that I had not even been aware of.
He came with his wine carrier and for one of the dinner courses, said that he had a bottle or two that he thought would be appreciated by some of us that evening. Even as the host of the evening; I was excited about some unique treasure that awaited those that were going to partake of the wine. He grabbed a bottle of wine from his carrier and handed it to me, to decant. I warmly thanked him for his most generous gift of the evening. It was a bottle of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1973. Ever since the classification of the Medoc, the folks at Chateau Mouton-Rothschild have taken umbrage and felt slighted that they were not included among the First Growths. They were given the first position in the pecking order of the Second Growths, a true honor, but one that they felt was not proper. Through out the years, on all of their labels there was never any mention of the classification system, that all of the other chateaus of the Medoc proudly proclaim on their labels.
That is until 1973, a decent year for the Medoc but even a greater year for Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. They had been elevated to the heady world of First Growth in the classification system, after decades of I am sure fighting the politics of the Medoc. Each year the label of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has artwork commissioned by them, by a famous artist, a tradition that goes back to 1945. The artwork for the 1973 vintage was by Picasso. Lo and behold, that year the great winery also included that they were a First Growth.
Now this was a fact that was not lost on my Brother-in-Law and I could see on his face that he had grabbed the bottle by mistake for the long trip to our house, and he was going to be a good sport about it, even though, I am sure that he was “possessed” by the bottle. I told him, that it was not necessary and that he could return it to the rightful bin in his cellar, and I told him that I would find something worthy of his magnanimous offering. I tried my best to console him and wondered what he had originally planned on bringing when he made the wrong selection. He had safely encased the wine back in his carrier, while I made a trip to my cellar and came back with a bottle for the evening and asked if he would do the honors of decanting the wine.
I was “possessed” by the wine, but I had to shrug off the bonds of possession that this bottle had on me. It was an epic battle going on in my mind, but the thoughts of sharing a wine with him, broke the shackles that had embraced me for years with the bottle I had just handed him. I was in my first year of college, and a customer had offered me three wine futures of how ever many he was offered, and he even allowed me to pay him in three equal payments over a course of three months. I laugh now, but then I was only making a few dollars an hour, and the each of the futures was at the cost of Fifteen Dollars. The wine was Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1973 and at that time, no one knew of the elevation of the ranking, though the majority of wine lovers had secretly opined that it should be changed.
Even though that wine was “possessed” by me, it really had “possessed” me. My consolation was that it was going to be enjoyed by some wine drinkers that could really appreciate it, as well as my Bride and me. The other two bottles still have their hold on me.